Sod in Esther

Zohar, parashat Bahalotecha, page 152a;

Rabbi Shimon said: “Woe to the person who says that the Torah comes to give instructions and tell descriptive stories and simple tales. If this were true, even in our own time we would be able to make “Torah” out of simple stories and praise and embellish them even better than all stories in the Torah. If the Torah came only to give instructions and tell the background history of the world, then even the ministers in the different governments of the world have stories that are more important and beneficial, from which one can learn wisdom and ethical behavior.

If that were true we should learn their examples and make a Torah after their examples. Of course this is not the case. Every word in the Torah reflects higher wisdom and higher secrets.

Come and see. The spiritual world and the physical world are weighed in one balance [because everything in the spiritual world has its reflection in this world]. So Israel is below and the heavenly forces are Above. It is written regarding the angels: "He makes His angels of spirit and his ministers of flames of fire." (Psalms 104:4) Now when these spiritual forces make a presence in This World, they have to take on the clothing of physicality. If they didn't appear in This World in appropriate form they couldn't survive in This World and This World would not be able to take their holiness and relate to them at all.

Now you can understand why the narratives of the Torah are only the outer clothing of the Torah. Whoever thinks that this outer clothing is in fact the Torah and there is nothing underneath the clothing is spiritually backward and has no portion in the World to Come. So it was that King David begged, "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things in Your Torah." (Psalms 119:18)

Come and see. There are clothes that stand out to everyone, and when stupid people see someone in beautiful clothing, they don't look any further. The body is more important than the clothes and more important than the body is the soul. In the same manner is the "body" of the Torah; these are the commandments that are called her "body".

This body of Torah is dressed in stories from this world. The fools of this world only look at this outer clothing of stories. They don't delve into what is contained beneath the outer shell. Those who know better look into the body beneath the outer shell. The wise ones, servants of the Highest King, those who stood at Mount Sinai, see through to the soul of the Torah that is truly her essence and in the future will delve into the soul that is within the essence of the Torah.

And these days are remembered and observed (9:28)

Literally, "remembered and made"--when a festival is "commemorated" properly, when it is truly relived, one can access the spiritual influences that were manifest on the original holiday, "making" and actualizing them every year anew.

(Rabbi Isaac Luria)

each time the word hamelech is used without the name Achashveirosh appended, it should be read as a reference to G‑d. Thus the verse “and Esther stood in the inner courtyard of the king before the king’s house” (Esther 5:1) means that Esther stood in prayer before the house of G‑d, the Holy Sanctuary, whither the prayers of all Jews must be directed.

From Jacob to Mordechai

Mordechai was the reincarnation of Jacob and Haman the reincarnation of Esau.

From the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai

[When Jacob saw that Esau was coming] he went ahead of [his family] and bowed down seven times until he reached his brother. (Gen. 33:3)

It says in Sefer Hakinuyim that Mordechai was the reincarnation of Jacob and Haman the reincarnation of Esau. Since Jacob did wrong by bowing before Esau seven times, Mordechai came and repaired Jacob's failing by refusing to bow down to Haman.

[The question is:] how could Jacob, the most perfect of the patriarchs, bow down to the wicked Esau? He surely knew that it is forbidden to greet an evildoer.[The answer is:] Jacob did not do anything wrong. When he prostrated himself he was bowing down to the Shechina that was coming to meet him.

Then why is it counted as a failing that needs rectification?

Jacob was guilty of giving a false impression to his wives and his children, causing them to think that he was bowing down to Esau.

Mordechai repaired this misstep by refusing to bow down to Haman.

[Translated by Avraham Jacob Finkel from Midbar Kasdimos, parashat Vayishlach; excerpted from "Kabbalah: Selections from Classic Kabbalistic Works from Raziel HaMalach to the Present Day" (Targum Press)]

Esther: Scent from Above

Kabbalah teaches that Esther was a reincarnation of Eve.

From the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech (Shapira) of Dinov

The Midrash states: "Hadassa" [Hebrew for "myrtle"] is [another name for] Esther. In the same way that myrtle has a sweet smell but a bitter taste, so was Esther sweet for Mordecai, yet bitter to Haman. (Esther Rabba 6:5)

The "Chida" {Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, of blessed memory] wrote: Esther was a reincarnation of Eve, the Serpent was enclothed in Haman, and Mordecai was the reincarnation of Jacob, as recorded by the students of the Ari. Thus, Esther (as Eve) was bitter to Haman, who was the Serpent, who had brought her to sin - and sweet to Mordecai, who, as a reincarnation of Jacob, was also the reincarnation of Adam. (Dvash L'pi 5:2)

And here I come to add, in accordance with what I've written on many an occasion, that every one of the [five] senses was recorded in the account of the sin of Adam - except that of the sense of smell. Therefore, understand that the sense of smell wasn't ever really blemished, and for this reason it is a thing which the soul [Neshama] gets pleasure from, as opposed to the body.

Thus, the scent was sweet to Mordecai. (And also because he himself is called "pure myrrh" [see Targum Onkelos on Ex. 30:23].) Thus, "[Mordecai] shouted a great shout" (Esther 4:1) for "the voice is good for [the quality of] spices". (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 23a)

And the taste was bitter to Haman, for [it was him, as] the Serpent, who seduced Eve [to sin essentially with] the sense of taste [and received his punishment from the reincarnation of Eve, measure for measure].

[From Benei Yisaschar, Adar 7:10]

(יא) מִֽי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הֶֽחָכָם֙ וְיָבֵ֣ן אֶת־זֹ֔את וַאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֧ר פִּֽי־יְהוָ֛ה אֵלָ֖יו וְיַגִּדָ֑הּ עַל־מָה֙ אָבְדָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ נִצְּתָ֥ה כַמִּדְבָּ֖ר מִבְּלִ֖י עֹבֵֽר׃ (ס) (יב) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה עַל־עָזְבָם֙ אֶת־תּ֣וֹרָתִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָתַ֖תִּי לִפְנֵיהֶ֑ם וְלֹא־שָׁמְע֥וּ בְקוֹלִ֖י וְלֹא־הָ֥לְכוּ בָֽהּ׃
(11) What man is so wise That he understands this? To whom has the LORD’s mouth spoken, So that he can explain it: Why is the land in ruins, Laid waste like a wilderness, With none passing through? (12) The LORD replied: Because they forsook the Teaching I had set before them. They did not obey Me and they did not follow it,

Bava Metzia 85a-b

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Who is the wise man, that he may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why has the land been lost and laid waste like a wilderness, so that none passes through?” (Jeremiah 9:11). This matter, i.e., the question: Why has the land been lost,

was stated by the Sages, i.e., the wise man mentioned in the verse, and yet they could not explain it. It was stated by the prophets, i.e., those to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, and yet they could not explain it, until the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself explained it, as it is stated in the next verse: “And the Lord says: Because they have forsaken My Torah which I set before them” (Jeremiah 9:12). Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: This does not mean that the Jewish people ceased Torah study altogether; rather, they did not recite a blessing on the Torah prior to its study, as they did not regard Torah study as a sacred endeavor.

וְאִי תֵּימְרוּן שׁוּם בִּישׁ עָלָהּ, דְּאִסְתְּאָבַת בַּאֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וְזָכְתָה לְאִתְלַבְּשָׁא בָּהּ רוּחָא דְּקֻדְשָׁא. הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב, (אסתר ה) וַתִּלְבַּשׁ אֶסְתֵּר מַלְכוּת. הָא אָמַר קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, (ישעיה מב) אֲנִי יְיָ' הוּא שְׁמִי וּכְבוֹדִי לְאַחֵר לֹא אֶתֵּן וּתְהִלָּתִי לַפְּסִילִים. וְרוּחָא דְּקֻדְשָׁא שְׁכִינְתָּא הֲוַת, דְּאִיהִי שֵׁם דְּאִתְלַבְּשַׁת בְּאֶסְתֵּר.
You may say that Esther has a bad reputation (by saying) that she was defiled with Ahasuerus, yet she was worthy that the Holy Spirit, (Malchut), would be clothed in her as written, "Esther put on her royal apparel, מַלְכוּת" (Esther 5:1). Yet the Holy One, blessed be He, said, "I am Hashem, that is My name, and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to carved idols" (Isaiah 42:8). The Holy Spirit is the Shechinah and is a name that was clothed with Esther.

Purim is so-called because of Yom HaKipurim [the Day of Atonement. But literally, "the day like ( =k’) Purim"] because in the future we will delight in that day [the Day of Atonement] and transform it from [a day of] affliction to [a day of] delight [just like Purim]…

And just as on that day he [the High Priest] adorns himself with the garments of atonement [the four white garments signifying the aspect of chesed] so too, regarding Esther it is written, "and she donned her royal garb" (Esther 5:1). Just as with these [white garments, the High Priest] enters the innermost sanctuary [where he attains atonement for the Jewish People], so too, "[Esther] stood in the inner courtyard of the king" (ibid.) [dressed in her royal garb] and "she found favor in his eyes."

Now, what caused the Shechinah [the Divine Presence] to become afflicted with exile

[Just as the Jewish People were exiled from the Holy Land after the Temple was destroyed, so too, the Shechinah was exiled from its place in the Temple, as the verse states, "They shall make for Me a Temple, and I will dwell among them"? (Ex. 25:8)]

The secret of the matter is [alluded to in the following, a verse in the Megillah]: "So I shall come before the king though it is against the law" (Esther 4:16) because she came without her husband

regarding whom it states, "from His right hand [signifying chesed] comes a fiery law" [i.e. Torah] (Deut. 33:2) for they abandoned the Torah and this caused the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as the verse states, "And if I perish, I perish!" (Esther 4:16). [Since the verse states "perish" twice, this is understood to allude to two destructions – hence the destruction of both Temples].

Nevertheless, even though she entered without her husband, i.e. the words of Torah, she still entered with [the merit of the three] Patriarchs [alluded to in the words, "Do not eat or drink]for three days, night or day" (ibid.) during which she [also] fasted. They were witnesses that the maiden went into the king, as the verse states, "And with this the maiden went in to the king" (ibid. 2:13). She who went in to the king indeed remained a maiden, for no man knew her other than her husband.

The Jewish People also remained untouched by any other faith. For although "they abandoned the Torah," as mentioned above, the Talmud (Bava Metiza 85b) explains that this means that they did not appreciate it sufficiently (Rashi), or that they did not cleave to He who gave them the Torah (Maharal, Tiferet Yisrael, Intro.) not that they completely abandoned it.

[From Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 21 p. 57b.
Translated with commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller]

Based on Zohar Shelach 169b

Translation and annotations from Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin

Rabbi Shimon said to him, I certainly am aware that you are dressed there [in the Garden of Eden] with the precious robe of a pure holy [spiritual] body. Was there ever something similar in this physical world, a person who appears here in their physical body that is similar to their spiritual body like in your world?

He said to him, this matter was asked by two youths in the presence of the head of the Yeshiva. They were clothed among us, after suffering pain about a sin that is improper to reveal, and they asked this question of the head of the Yeshiva. He replied that there was such an occurrence in the physical world. How do we know? Since it is written: "Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel [malchut]", (Esther 5:1) that she was robed in the same manner as in that spiritual world, in malchut, the source of the Divine Spirit. For the Kingdom of Heaven blows a wind (spirit) from the spirit of the air of that world, and it enclothed Esther. When she entered into the presence of King Ahasuerus and he saw that robe of light, her form seemed to him like an angel of G‑d, and he lost his soul for an instant.

Mordechai too [was likewise clothed] as is written: "And Mordechai went out from the presence of the king dressed in the garment of royalty (malchut)",(Esther 8:15) literally dressed in malchut, in the form of that spiritual world. Therefore, it is written: "Because the fear of Mordechai had fallen upon them" (Esther 9:3), the fear of Mordechai and not the fear of Ahasuerus [who was the source of his temporal power]. Rabbi Shimon said, How sweet are these matters. How worthy is my lot [that I merited to hear such things]. Now I know that the righteous in that spiritual world wear garments that are called the garments of malchut, and this is certainly true.

He said to him in the air of the Garden of Eden blows a Divine Spirit and it enrobes the righteous in a manner similar to the manner in which they were dressed in the physical world. Then, the Divine Spirit dwells upon the head of each individual. He is adorned with it and it becomes a crown to him. The same happened to Mordechai, since it is written: "in the garment of royalty" of malchut, in the form of that world. After that, "and with a great crown of gold"; that is, in the crown that rests on the heads of the righteous in that world. When the children of Israel accepted the Torah, they also had similar to this, until they sinned, as is written: "And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb" (Ex. 33:6).

Similarly, we find written about Joshua, the High Priest, "Take off the filthy garment from him...and clothed him with garments" (Zechariah 3:4-5). These are the robes of that world. From here, our earlier words are derived. From here, we learn that during the entire period that the body of this world is in existence in the grave, the spirit does not acquire the robe of that world, as is written, first: "Take off the filthy garments from him." Then it is written: "And they clothed him with garments." "And the angel of G‑d stood by". (3:5) What is the meaning of "stood"? Only that this is the crown, referred to as the angel of G‑d, that stands upon the heads of the righteous. That is "stood," it stands above the head after they are adorned with this precious spiritual garment.

Two bodies together cannot exist. As long as the physical one exists, the soul cannot receive the other. When this one, gets removed, the other one is instantly ready. Assuredly, this one leaves and that one enters. It is similar to the good inclination and bad inclination in this world, both of which the Holy One, blessed be He, does not wish to exist simultaneously in one person [hence one must battle constantly to fight the bad inclination to enable one to receive this spiritual garment].

(ח) וְנָתַ֧ן אַהֲרֹ֛ן עַל־שְׁנֵ֥י הַשְּׂעִירִ֖ם גּוֹרָל֑וֹת גּוֹרָ֤ל אֶחָד֙ לַיהוָ֔ה וְגוֹרָ֥ל אֶחָ֖ד לַעֲזָאזֵֽל׃
(8) and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel.

Ibn Ezra
And if you were capable of grasping the mystery that emanates from the word Azazel, then you would know its secret and the secret of its name, for it has equivalents elsewhere in the Bible. I shall reveal to you a portion of the mystery, only by way of an indirect hint. When you reach thirty-three you will know it.

(ז) וְלֹא־יִזְבְּח֥וּ עוֹד֙ אֶת־זִבְחֵיהֶ֔ם לַשְּׂעִירִ֕ם אֲשֶׁ֛ר הֵ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶ֑ם חֻקַּ֥ת עוֹלָ֛ם תִּֽהְיֶה־זֹּ֥את לָהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃
(7) and that they may offer their sacrifices no more to the goat-demons after whom they stray. This shall be to them a law for all time, throughout the ages.

Pirkei D'Rabi Eliezer

That is why on Yom Kippur they would give Samael a bribe to not cancel their sacrifice, as is written, "one lot to God and one lot to azazel," the lot of God is a burnt-offering, and the lot of azazel is a goat of sin-offering, and all the sins of Israel are on it. Samael sees that there is no sin in them on Yom Kippur. He says to God: Master of the worlds, you have one people on earth who are like the ministering angels in heaven – just as the ministering angels are barefoot, so Israel is barefoot on Yom Kippur; just as the ministering angels neither eat nor drink, so Israel does not eat or drink on Yom Kippur, just as the ministering angels cannot bend, so Israel stands all Yom Kippur; just as the ministering angels, peace serves as an intermediary between them, so Israel, peace serves as an intermediary between them on Yom Kippur; just as the ministering angels are free of all sin, so Israel is free of all sin on Yom Kippur.

God hears the testimony of Israel from their accuser and He atones for the altar, and for the Temple, and for the priests, and for all the congregation...


See, they have told his name and his actions. And this is the secret of the matter. For they used to worship other gods, who are the angels, offering them sacrifices which are for them a sweet savor (rei'ach nicho'ach)…. Now the Torah totally prohibited the acceptance of their divinity or any worship of them, but God commanded that on Yom Kippur we send a goat to the desert to the prince who rules in desolate places, which is appropriate as he is the master of (that place), and from the emanation of his strength comes destruction and desolation, for he is the cause of the stars of the sword and blood and wars and quarrels and wounds and plagues and division and destruction, and, in general, the soul of the sphere of Mars. And his portion among the nations is Eisav, who is the nation who inherits the sword and wars. And among the animals, (his portion is) the goat, and in his portion are also the demons who are called mazikim in the language of the Rabbis, and se'irim in the language of Scripture, for both he and his nation are called se'ir (= goat, demon, and another name for Edom, the land of Eisav).

...the intention of the se'ir hamishtalei'ach is not that it be an offering from us to him, God forbid, but rather that our intention should be that we are fulfilling the will of our creator who has commanded so. The parable for this is if one were to make a banquet for the master, and the master would command the one making the banquet: "Give a portion to this particular servant of mine." In this case, the one who makes the banquet is not giving anything to the servant, and is not honoring him, but rather everything is given to the master, and the master is giving a reward to the servant. And he has fulfilled his master's command and has done, in his master's honor, all that he was commanded. But the master, out of concern for the giver of the banquet, wished that all his servants take part in it, so that they praise him and not belittle him.


"The sun, the moon, and the stars…whom Hashem your God has distributed to all the nations" (Devarim 4,19) – for each of them has a star and above them the ministering angels, as was said to Daniel, "the prince of the kingdom of Persia, the prince of the kingdom of Greece," and that is why they make of them gods and worship them. But you have been taken by God, because you are God's portion, and you may not raise up a prince or assistant beside Him, for He has taken you out of the iron crucible…, Egypt, and He took you out of there against their princes…. All this He did so that you would be His portion and you would be special to His great name from all the nations. (Ramban TC Devarim 4,15)

Zohar Tetzaveh

Come and behold: Yisrael sent the goat to Azazel, to the wilderness, so as to give a portion to the Other Side with which to be occupied. You may ask why there are two goats here, one for Hashem and one for the Other Side. It is understandable To send the goat of the Other Side to Azazel, but why the goat to Hashem?

He answered it is like a parable of a king who was angry with his son. He summoned a bailiff, who regularly meted out justice to people, in order to come and punish his son. The bailiff rejoiced and entered the king's palace to eat there. As soon as the son saw him, he thought: Certainly, the only reason this bailiff has come to my father's palace is because the king is angry with me. What did he do? He tried to please him. Once he pleased him, the king ordered a magnificent feast for himself and his son, and commanded that the bailiff would not know of it. Afterward, the bailiff came. The king thought: Now if he knows of the grand feast that I prepared for my son and myself, there will be confusion at the table. What did he do? He called the butler in charge over the feast and told him, 'prepare something to put before me and the bailiff, so that the bailiff would think that he dined with me, and would not know about that other precious feast for me and my son. He would then take that portion and leave, and disengage from our joyous feast.' If the king had not done this, that bailiff would not have left the king's palace.

So did the Holy One, blessed be He, say to Yisrael: 'Prepare two goats, one for Me and one for that Slanderer', NAMELY THE OTHER SIDE, 'so that he will think that he ate from My meal and will not know of the other, our own joyous meal. Let him take that portion and go his way and depart from My house.'

… This is what is written: "that you may be clean before Hashem" (Vayikra 16:30). It is written: "And Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats; one lot for Hashem and the other lot for Azazel" (Ibid. 8). This is the joy of the Slanderer, that the Holy One, blessed be He, casts lots with him and invites him to take the scapegoat. But he does not realise that He pours a flaming fire on his head and on his people, as is written: "For You will heap coals of fire upon his head" (Prov. 25:22).

You may derive this from the scriptural passage: "Even Esther the queen let no one come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared but myself" (Esther 5:12), and: "Then Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart" (Ibid. 9) with that portion that he received, and went his way. Afterward, when the Supernal King came to the Queen's palace, the Queen asked for Herself, for Her children and for the people of the King. Even when the children of Yisrael are in exile and pray daily, Malchut ascends on this day, Yom Kippur, before the King and asks for Her children. Then all vengeance that the Holy One, blessed be He, is going to bring against Edom are decreed, and it is decreed how this Slanderer will be removed from this world, as is written: "He will destroy death forever" (Isa. 25:8).

Bear in mind that it is written about the time of exile: "For we are sold, I and my people...since the affliction would not have equaled the king's damage" (Esther 7:4). What is "the king's damage?" It is as you say, "And cut off our name from the earth, and what will You do for Your Great Name?" (Josh 7:9) because the Great Name will no longer be maintained, and this is the king's damage! "Then Haman “who is the other side” was struck with terror before the king and the queen" (Esther 7:6). Then every shining face and every joy is present, and the children of Yisrael go out free on that day Yom Kippur. From that day and onward, freedom and joy openly rule over them and He wishes to rejoice with them. From here on, just as a portion is given who is the other side, so that he shall depart from Israel, a portion is also given to the other nations, so that they depart from Israel below.